A hat, an electric pole and a party with an identity crisis

Observers say it will be tough for AIADMK factions to popularise their new symbols

Updated - March 24, 2017 08:03 am IST

Published - March 24, 2017 12:50 am IST - CHENNAI

The warring AIADMK factions — now known as AIADMK (Amma) and AIADMK (Puratchi Thalaivi Amma) — would face an uphill task popularising their respective electoral symbols ‘hat’ and ‘electric pole’ among the voters of the Dr. R.K. Nagar Assembly constituency where byelection will be held on April 12, observers say.

However, both factions are confident of overcoming this and emerging victorious in the Assembly constituency, which was represented earlier by none other than Jayalalithaa, whose political legacy they are fighting for.

“The party [and its factions] has almost lost its identity. The decision of the Election Commission to freeze ‘two leaves’ is definitely a disadvantage for the party and its factions. Parties take great efforts to register their symbol in the minds of the people and once you are forced not to use them, the party’s identity is affected,” says historian S. Theodore Baskaran.

According to Professor Ramu Manivannan of the Department of Politics and Public Administration in the University of Madras, the party is now facing an “identity crisis”. “The party symbol was so strong that none of the party leaders other than Jayalalithaa were famous. Now, there is no MGR, no Jayalalithaa and no ‘Two Leaves’! It’s still better because this constituency is in urban area and not rural.”

Lessons from past

However, K. Samarasam, spokesperson for the AIADMK (Amma), says though MGR had promoted the DMK’s ‘rising sun’ symbol in his films, he managed to pull off a victory when the AIADMK contested in the Dindigul Lok Sabha byelection on the ‘two leaves’ symbol in 1973. “In fact, MGR’s name was Udhayasuriyan [DMK’s symbol] in the film Chakravarthi Thirumagal, but when he started his own party, people understood and went behind him.”

“If you see history, a candidate backed by us had even won on the ‘Banana’ symbol in Bhuvanagiri in 2001. So, when people know who is who, they would know who to vote for. If the people want to continue supporting this government, they would obviously vote for us.”

AIADMK (Puratchi Thalaivi Amma) spokesperson and former Minister Ma Foi K. Pandiarajan says, “This is an emotionally-charged byelection and it does not really matter whether we have the symbol. No doubt, it would have been good if we had got the ‘two leaves’ symbol, but the seething anger against the family politics of Sasikala among the people and their emotions could compensate for the symbol.”

He adds that the faction is happy about getting the ‘electric pole’ symbol (which appears like a lamp post with two lamps), which he feels is “the closest we could get to two leaves.”

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